By 2035 the global energy transition will reach a point of no return, according to a recent report from Wood Mackenzie.
By that year, says WoodMac, renewables will likely meet 20 percent of global power demand, up from today's 7 percent. The combination of wind, solar and electric vehicles will displace about 100 billion cubic feet of oil per day, creating an “unstoppable” shift for companies and countries around the world.
“Stopping this transition seems highly unlikely,” reads the report. “It’s going to happen.”
Though several global power markets already claim percentages of renewables above 20 percent, WoodMac projects a wide range of markets will rise to reach that level in coming decades. After that, adoption of renewables accelerates even faster — with wind, solar and electrified transport becoming “the default choice across many energy systems around the world.”
Power markets will completely transform. WoodMac notes in the report that wind, solar and storage all have “high disruptive potential in power markets.”
A year after the 2035 inflection point, WoodMac forecasts a peak in oil demand, with electric motors accounting for 15 to 20 percent of all miles traveled in buses, cars, trucks or on bicycle. Electric vehicles could eliminate the use of 6 million barrels of oil per day by 2040.
WoodMac also notes the inflection point could come earlier as policy gets more ambitious, or if technologies such as advanced energy storage and microgrids take root earlier than current projections.
The report is significant in that it's coming from an oil and gas consulting group. In September, WoodMac unveiled its new Power & Renewables team, assembled from its own global power analysts along with analysts from recently acquired companies MAKE Consulting, which focuses on wind research, and GTM Research.
The transition is inevitable and powerful. But WoodMac’s projections are still far behind the emissions scenarios that scientists say are necessary to mitigate the worst effects of climate change. In a report released by the U.N. this month, authors claimed the world needs to get 70 to 85 percent of its electricity from renewables by mid-century to limit warming to 1.5°C.
WoodMac’s head of global wind energy research Dan Shreve said, “We’re going to have a tremendous amount of difficulty” reaching the IPCC’s goals based on WoodMac’s current projections of the energy transition.
Want deeper analysis on where things stand? Click here to read more on how WoodMac’s report compares to the IPCC’s vision.
India is going to fall short of its ambitious 2022 renewable energy target.
But even getting three-quarters of the way there would be a noteworthy achievement, say analysts at Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables.
India is aiming to install 100 gigawatts of solar and 75 gigawatts of wind by 2022. Despite significant cost reductions in both technologies and strong government support in the country, Wood Mackenzie only expects India to get to 76 percent of this target, the firm said this month.
Wood Mackenzie solar analyst Rishab Shrestha said recent auction cancellations in India risk jeopardizing investor confidence, while the imposition of various duties on equipment are bumping up solar prices.
As a result, he said, cash-strapped state distribution companies are dragging their feet over approving new solar projects. The Wood Mackenzie forecast echoed views among Indian analysts.
In a note published this month, India Ratings & Research said: “The recent scrapping of solar auctions around tariff concerns can derail the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy target to achieve 100 gigawatts of solar capacity by FY22.”
India’s solar auction target for the 2019 financial year may also be missed on account of frequent changes in the implementation of safeguard duties, apprehensions about grid connectivity, and land-acquisition-related bottlenecks, the analyst firm said.
Finally, it noted, the depreciation of the rupee against the dollar could pose a threat to the economic viability of Indian solar tariffs. These headwinds follow a period of galloping growth for renewables in India.
Since 2014, India’s wind and solar capacity has almost doubled, topping 61 gigawatts this year. Growth has been driven by auctions that have forced costs down.
Over the next half decade, Shrestha said, capital costs for solar are expected to fall by a further 31 percent, while wind could see a 23 percent drop. “This trend will only continue as new generation technologies replace old ones."
Wood Mackenzie forecasts that non-hydro renewables will make up 13 percent of India’s generation mix by 2023, mostly taking market share from coal. And although the country will likely miss its 2022 renewables target, the mid- to long-term outlook remains good.
Initial policy discussions on India’s 2030 renewables target have already “shed a positive light on renewables,” Shrestha said. “Improving grid flexibility through storage and flexible power generation will be extremely crucial in achieving high levels of renewable penetration.”
Economic competitiveness, technological maturity and financially healthy offtakers will provide a solid base for renewable capacity to meet electricity demand growth, he said.
As a result, by 2040, India is forecast to increase its renewable capacity by around seven times, to 384 gigawatts.
By then, India’s non-hydro renewables mix will provide one-fifth of the country’s generation capacity and could include a diverse array of technologies including offshore wind, hybrid projects, floating solar and distributed PV, Shrestha said.
Despite this, coal is set to remain India’s dominant source of power for the foreseeable future, delivering around three-fifths of the country’s electricity by as far out as 2040. Coal consumption is currently at its peak in India.
Pralabh Bhargava, coal principal analyst at Wood Mackenzie, said India’s coal industry is struggling to keep up with demand and the country had raised imports from 158 million tons to 164 million tons in 2018.
This could increase further, by up to 4 million tons, as coal stocks at Indian power plants and Coal India Limited are at historically low levels, Bhargava said.
India's spot market prices for coal and power are expected to remain strong in the coming months as continuous industrial production growth is pushing demand, while supply remains tight, he said.
Demand for imported coal was forecast to remain high until early next year, he said, as utilities and industrial consumers competed for supply. Industry demand for coal has been bolstered by a 7 percent increase in industrial output this year, Bhargava said.
“In the steel sector, India's hot metal production was up 10 percent year-on-year for January to August,” he noted. “With limited domestic upside in metallurgical coal production, steelmakers relied more on imported coking coal.”
Spanish lawmakers this month canceled Spain’s notorious "tax on the sun" as part of a package of measures aimed at bringing down soaring electricity costs.
The package was issued on October 5 as a royal decree law (RDL), a legal maneuver allowing the administration to rush emergency regulations into place and then debate them afterwards.
On October 18, Spain’s Congress of Deputies voted to admit the RDL 15/2018, with the Spanish People’s Party (Partido Popular, or PP in Spanish), which brought in the tax on the sun in October 2015, abstaining from the vote.
As part of the legal process, there will now be a lengthy consultation period on the law. However, if parties cannot reach agreement on amendments, as seems likely to be the case, then RDL 15/2018 will stay as it is.
The law includes a six-month halt on two types of power generation tax, which could help cut electricity bills by 4 percent, and an extension of household eligibility for a government-sponsored energy discount called the social bonus ("bono social" in Spanish).
But the highlight of the decree was the relaxation of rules on renewable energy self-consumption, which has been held back for the last three years in Spain as a result of legislation muscled in by the PP at a time when it held a parliamentary majority.
The tax on the sun, as Spain’s royal decree (RD) 900/2015 was commonly known, was actually a complex set of tolls and charges applied to grid-connected behind-the-meter distributed generation and storage assets, ostensibly to prevent renewables from overloading the grid.
In practice, the PP-led government never fully explained how charges would be collected under the tax. It never had to.
The fear, uncertainty and doubt around the tax largely halted installations, and only around 1,200 plants were ever listed on the government’s solar self-consumption registry.
The irony is that even if the PP government had worked out how to collect the tax on the sun, most Spanish households could have installed solar panels without paying it.
RD 900/2015 only applied to systems of 10 kilowatts or above, which is more than twice the average power rating of the average Spanish home.
The main problem for homeowners wanting to press ahead under the sun tax regime was not the hypothetical threat of charges but the law’s very serious administrative requirements.
“We never paid a cent of the tax on the sun, but the administrative burden was massive, which increased the cost of installations,” said Daniel Pérez, chief legal officer at Holaluz, an independent green energy retailer.
He had one member of his 10-person team working full-time just on meeting the RD 900/2015 paperwork requirements for a trickle of residential PV system applications, he said. Now that trickle will likely turn into a flood.
Solar costs have fallen significantly in the last three years, while Spanish consumers now face the highest electricity prices in a decade.
The cost is not far off the highest ever recorded in the Spanish electricity market, in January 2006, when energy prices topped €73.14 ($83.82) per megawatt-hour.
Soaring energy pool prices meant the average Spanish consumer paid €74.66 ($85.60) for their electricity in September, Expansión said.
"All we’ve done is go back to the starting point. It’s not like this is an incentive. You don’t get anything [for installing solar], but at least they don’t take anything away," said Pérez.